DeMarr and Dominque were signed over to Helen's care when DeMarr was 9 days old. Their mom wrote a letter that gave Helen, their grandmother, temporary care of the children until their mother completed drug treatment and stabilized her situation so she could give them the safe and stable home they need. Helen had the note notarized so she could obtain needed services and supports for the children. Helen was active in the community and had a good reputation. With the note and her resourceful nature she was able to secure TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) for the children and was able to take them to routine medical appointments. As the children's mother continued to struggle with addiction, Helen continued to care for the children. She has not sought legal custody of DeMarr and Dominique because of the financial and legal challenges associated with doing so. Recently DeMarr demonstrated a more serious medical problem. He reported a persistent pain in his knee. Helen took DeMarr to the Health Department where they referred him to the local Children's Hospital. Unfamiliar with Helen's relationship with DeMarr, the receptionist at the hospital told Helen she would not be able to consent to DeMarr's treatment without proper custody papers. She called the supervisor who confirmed that a notarized note was not adequate.
Through her work with a local support group for grandparents raising grandchildren, Helen learned about a medical consent law passed in the state of Washington. Recognizing that many grandparents are raising their grandchildren without having legal custody of them, the state created a medical consent waiver form which caregivers can complete and show at medical appointments to allow them to authorize medical care for children in their care. Helen had a completed copy of the form with her and shared it with the hospital staff. Unfamiliar with the form, Helen educated the staff on its purpose and availability for grandparents and other relatives who may bring children they are raising in for medical care. The staff made a copy of the form for DeMarr's file and accepted Helen's consent for the treatment.
Helen has continued to raise DeMarr and Dominique who are thriving in her care. Dominique finished high school and is attending college to become a Paralegal. She is married and expecting a baby. DeMarr's visit to the hospital to address his knee problem was successful. He is in the 12th grade and a strong athlete who won most valuable player and two Varsity basketball letters. He is on the football team and recently made two of the team's winning touchdowns. He has been offered a two year full basketball scholarship for his local community college.
Helen is the Kinship Navigator for King County, Washington's program, which helps connect grandparents and other relatives raising children to supports and services in their area. She also organizes and facilitates a local kinship caregiver support group.